Desmoid Tumor: Symptoms and Signs

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 07/2020

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about body changes and other things that can signal a problem that may need medical care. Use the menu to see other pages.

A desmoid tumor can develop in almost any soft tissue of the body. The types of symptoms that people have from a desmoid tumor depend on where it starts and its size. People with a desmoid tumor may experience the following symptoms or signs. Sometimes, people with a desmoid tumor do not have any of these changes. Or, the cause of a symptom may be a different medical condition that is not this type of tumor.

The first sign of a desmoid tumor may be a firm, painless lump or swelling in the arms, legs, chest, neck, or abdomen. Sometimes, the lump is painful. Most lumps are not a desmoid tumor. However, it is important to talk with your doctor about any lumps that are larger than 2 inches (5 centimeters), grow larger, or are painful, regardless of their location.

Because desmoid tumor develop in flexible, elastic tissues or deep spaces in the body, the tumor can often push normal tissue out of its way as it grows. Therefore, the tumor may sometimes grow quite large before it causes symptoms.

Symptoms may include:

  • Soreness or pain caused by the tumor pressing on nearby nerves, muscles, or blood vessels

  • Tingling or a feeling of “pins and needles,” when the tumor presses on local nerves or blood vessels

  • Limping or other difficulties moving the legs or feet

  • Difficulty moving the arms or hands

  • Pain

Intra-abdominal desmoid tumors may also cause some of the symptoms above, as well as those related to a blocked bowel, including:

  • Bloating

  • Constipation

  • Abdominal pain

  • Rupture of intestines

If you are concerned about any changes you experience, please talk with your doctor. Your doctor will ask how long and how often you have been experiencing the symptom(s), in addition to other questions. This is to help figure out the cause of the problem, called a diagnosis.

If a desmoid tumor is diagnosed, relieving symptoms remains an important part of your medical treatment. This may be called supportive care. It is often started soon after diagnosis and continued throughout treatment. Be sure to talk with your health care team about the symptoms you experience, including any new symptoms or a change in symptoms.

The next section in this guide is Diagnosis. It explains what tests may be needed to learn more about the cause of the symptoms. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.